Senior Likud officials accused US President Barack Obama on Tuesday of leaking
sharp criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership to columnist
Jeffrey Goldberg in order to sway voters in next Tuesday’s
Goldberg quoted Obama in a Bloomberg piece as having said
privately that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”
sharp critic himself of Netanyahu and the country’s settlement policies,
Goldberg wrote that “with each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view,
Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near isolation.”
columnist noted that Obama’s comment had come shortly after the November 29 UN
General Assembly vote to upgrade the Palestinians’ status, a move followed by
Netanyahu’s announcement that he would advance plans to develop E1 and build
3,000 units in east Jerusalem and the settlement blocs.
Goldberg, Obama “told several people that sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part
is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to
what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.”
chose Goldberg, who is believed to have good White House contacts, to get across
a message on Iran before he addressed AIPAC and met Netanyahu in the White House
in March. The columnist wrote that “on matters related to the Palestinians the
president seems to view the prime minister as a political coward, an essentially
unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political
capital to advance the cause of compromise.”
He added that he would not
be surprised if Obama “eventually offered a public vision of what a state of
Palestine should look like, and affirmed that it should have its capital in East Jerusalem.”
Goldberg also said Obama wanted Netanyahu
to recognize that Israel’s settlement policies were dooming a twostate solution,
and to acknowledge that such a solution represented the best chance of
preserving “the country as a Jewish-majority democracy.”
Sources close to
Netanyahu responded carefully, saying that the prime minister would continue to
protect the country’s vital national security interests in the coming government
that he would lead. The sources noted that Obama had said Israeli-US defense and
security cooperation were at unprecedented levels, which was evident in US
support for Israeli missile defense systems and diplomatic backing during
Operation Pillar of Defense.
But Likud officials accused Obama of “gross
interference” in the Israeli election and said the president was “taking
revenge” against Netanyahu for his perceived intervention in the November US
election on behalf of unsuccessful Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The
officials said Obama had been swayed against Netanyahu by President Shimon Peres
and former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Environmental Protection Minister
Gilad Erdan, who heads the Likud’s response team, said Goldberg was merely a
dovish publicist trumpeting the views of the American far-Left.
gossip a journalist wrote, and the facts suggest that the opposite is true,”
Erdan said. “Israelis expect their prime minister not to give in to pressure,
even if it would give them applause in the United States.”
Likud MK Danny
Danon, who wrote an anti-Obama book, ironically defended Goldberg, saying that
US Jews had a right to an opinion on Israel, no matter where they were on the
political map. He expressed hope that Goldberg would continue writing against
Netanyahu ahead of the election.
“Any interference will just give us more
seats,” Danon wrote.
Goldberg told The Jerusalem Post that he was amused
by the reactions of Israeli politicians, especially accusations that he had
conspired with the Israeli Left to maximize damage to Netanyahu. He said what he
had written was consistent with statements Obama had made in the past about the
need for Israel’s friends to hold up a mirror and tell the truth.
administration, they saw that after Obama supported Israel in the Gaza conflict
and at the UN, the next day Netanyahu wanted to build a new settlement in E1,
and they threw up their hands in frustration,” Goldberg said. “I have picked up
this chatter about the White House over the past two weeks, so I wrote it. I’m a
journalist, writing about what’s happening, not trying to steer an Israeli
When told about Erdan’s criticism of him, the columnist said,
“That’s fine. Blame the messenger, but those who say that Obama and Bibi’s
relationship is healthy are deluding themselves.”
Asked whether Obama
wanted Netanyahu to win the election, Goldberg said he had no idea.
Sunday, Netanyahu received an endorsement from a well-known Republican: casino
magnate and fierce Obama critic Donald Trump. But the announcement of the
endorsement was delayed for two days and released after the Goldberg column,
which reinforced accusations that Netanyahu was too close to the Republicans at
the expense of the Democrats in charge of the White House.
have a great prime minister,” Trump said. “There is nobody like
him. He is a winner, he is highly respected, he is highly thought of by
Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni tried to capitalize on the
media frenzy created by Goldberg’s article at a Tel Aviv press
“All of the people of Israel should have been woken up by
Obama saying the prime minister was leading Israel to grave isolation,” Livni
“As an Israeli, it is hard for me to hear it, but it’s important to
know that this is happening.
If people don’t change their vote, Netanyahu
will continue leading us to isolation, violence and a worse economy, because
it’s all connected.”
At the press conference, Livni presented a
diplomatic plan that included cleaning Israel’s slate with Obama, receiving
American assurances about Israel keeping settlement blocs and Palestinian
refugees not returning, and beginning direct talks with the Palestinians with
the involvement of the European Union, Turkey and the Arab
According to the plan, Israel would reach an agreement on borders
of a demilitarized Palestinian state, but would not withdraw until security
considerations for the West Bank and Gaza Strip were set with the
Livni declined to reveal what she gave up when she
negotiated with the Palestinians as foreign minister.
“As someone who
worked with world leaders, a peace deal is not in the sky,” Livni said. “If we
don’t advance peace, the dangers will multiply, and the result will be disaster
She also blasted Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, saying that
“the diplomatic negotiations and all diplomatic and security issues don’t
interest her, and she doesn’t understand them.”
Yacimovich responded that
Livni had been foreign minister for three years and hadn’t advanced the peace
process by an inch.
“Not only are [Livni’s] contributions to the
diplomatic process zero, her behavior is sabotaging chances of enabling me to
replace Netanyahu and move the peace process forward,” Yacimovich said.
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